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Study on Negative Effects of Talking to Kids About Weight

If You Make Off-Hand Comments About Your Kid's Weight, You Need to Stop ASAP

Parents might have only the best intentions when they try to keep their child from overeating and making poor food choices. But according to a new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics, you might want to table those chats, as they can actually make matters far worse for kiddos who struggle with their weight.

Believe it or not, a parent's effort to help their child lose any extra weight can actually have the opposite effect — they might gain more weight on top of feeling downright crummy about themselves. Researchers think this cause-and-effect relationship has a lot to do with the pressure society puts on individuals to stay thin.

What does that mean for mom and dad? Don't pile on.

The study authors explain why constantly bringing up your kid's weight can have potentially disastrous consequences: "Rather than motivating positive change, this stigma contributes to behaviors such as binge eating, social isolation, avoidance of health care services, decreased physical activity, and increased weight gain, which worsen obesity and create additional barriers to healthy behavior change. Furthermore, experiences of weight stigma also dramatically impair quality of life, especially for youth."

Although the study points the finger at kids' peers, and even educators, the most alarming statistics appear specifically about parents. According to the study: "parents have also been identified as a source of weight-based victimization toward youth with obesity. In a survey study of adolescents attending weight-loss camps, 37 percent reported they had been teased or bullied about their weight by a parent."

And while the US population could most certainly use a bit of guidance when it comes to the prevalence of childhood obesity in the nation (about one in five school-aged children between the ages of 6 and 19 is obese in the US, according to the CDC), there has to be a better way to tackle the issue other than awkwardly bringing it up at the dinner table. The AAP recommends parents get their children's pediatrician involved as early as possible, along with being especially mindful of the comments they make about weight in front of their kids. They also suggest adopting a healthier lifestyle (in terms of eating and exercise) as a family, so that the person who may be struggling with their weight isn't singled out.

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